Stamped from the Beginning

In collaboration with Roanoke Public Libraries builds, the Stamped from the Beginning book club built around Summer with the National Book Award event Indecent Histories, held on August 29th at the new Melrose Branch Library, featuring Dr. Ibram X. Kendi and Justin Phillip Read. Events were held in January and February 2020.


Historian Ibram X. Kendi was the youngest author to win the National Book Award for nonfiction for his book Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, (Bold Type Books, 2017). The book was a Washington Post and Boston Globe Best Book of the Year, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, and the NAACP Image Award Finalist for Outstanding Literary Work, Nonfiction. The history runs from fifteenth-century Europe into the twenty-first century in five sections, each with a “tour guide” of thought of their era. Kendi is a professor of history and international relations at American University.

Paired with Kendi for the event was Justin Phillip Reed. The poet and essayist is originally from South Carolina, and now lives in St. Louis. He won the award in 2018 for his poetry collection, Indecency (Coffee House Press, 2018).

To continue the conversation, we held the Stamped from the Beginning Book Club, a six-week community read of the history of racist ideas. January 7 through February 14, 2020.




Download A Brief Timeline of Racism in the United States – notes from Stamped from the Beginning.

January 7 – Section 1: Cotton Mather
Guest: Points of Diversity’s Katie Zawacki on learnings from Changing the Narrative.

Thirty readers joined the conversation on January 7. We heard the outcomes from Katie Zawacki on the community’s 2019 Changing the Narrative project funded by the Kellogg foundation through Virginia Humanities. Watch soon for a video of Katie’s presentation.  Additional resources mentioned in the meeting:


Photo taken with Focosimg_2064.jpeg

January 14 – Section 2: Thomas Jefferson
Guest: Sculptor and Author Lawrence Reid Bechtel on Thomas Jefferson and Isaac Granger

A group of 25 people discussed the contradictions and complexity of Enlightenment thinkers including Thomas Jefferson. Guest Larry Bechtel described his interest and process in exploring the life of Isaac Granger Washington, an enslaved man on the estate of Thomas Jefferson, imagined in his novel, A Partial Sun. Additional resources mentioned in the session:



January 21
– Section 3: William Lloyd Garrison (Add the FB Event to your calendar)
Guest: Virginia Tech’s Dennis Halpin on the legacy of the Civil War

Thirty readers discussed William Lloyd Garrison and the legacy of Abraham Lincoln. Then Dennis Halpin presented on reconstruction and the long-lasting effects of W.E.B. DuBois’ approach to history. Here are additional resources from the session.

January 28 – Section 4: W. E. B. Du Bois (Add the Facebook Event to your calendar)
Guest: Virginia Humanities’ Justin Reid on Reconstruction and the Great Migration

Check out Virginia Humanities’ Justin Reid’s presentation.

Screen Shot 2020-01-31 at 9.05.14 PM

Additional resources mentioned in the session:


February 4 – Section 5: Angela Davis
Guest: Vice-Mayor Joe Cobb on the civil rights movement and today
Check out these related links:

Screen Shot 2020-02-22 at 6.51.59 AM

Additional resources:



February 11 – We take a break so that the group can attend the listening session of the Virginia African American History Education Commission at the Harrison Museum of African American Culture at 6 PM.


February 18 – Wrap up conversation: What we can do, what each of us can do.

We listed things we can do to stand up to racism and to continue discussions in our community, listing resources and a number of ongoing and current efforts:

Check out these resources.

Attend an upcoming event:

The group discussed starter lists of:

What We Can Do

  • Continue conversations and growing together
  • Engage with ongoing efforts such as Voices of Faith, Points of Diversity, and Church of the Brethren.
  • Learn and understand local history.
  • Continue Points of Diversity Study Circles…not to have a mix of people, but for white people who want to do the work to learn more and be stronger allies together.
  • Create a center point.  An email group or coordinated calendar.
  • Create a space for togetherness. Consider something not tied to the conversation, but bridging.  Maybe a scrap exchange that bridges neighborhoods, resources, and people.
  • Create a film evaluation group to rewatch classic and formative movies that shaped the way we think and act.
  • Pursue parity in power structures:
    • Elected, appointed, staff positions.
    • Places of worship.
  • Use an anti-racism lens on policy.
  • Have more book groups like this.
  • Use economic pressure and rewards.
  • Keep meeting.


What I Can Do

  • Assess individual decisions.
  • Volunteer with active groups
  • Subscribe, read and advertise:
  • Reassess the use of quadrants
    • Stop use of boundary language in conversation
    • I’ll talk with the postmaster
  • Visit other churches once a month
  • Attend Soul Sessions
  • Use my dollar’s spending power
    • Shop at black-owned businesses
    • Shop at local markets
    • Shop in other neighborhoods
    • Donate
  • Question and stop using euphemisms, e.g.  “Urban Renewal”
    • What was it really?
    • What did it actually do?
  • Challenge assumptions and group think.
  • Speak up.  Take responsibility when racist comments are made.
  • Show up. Join the Roanoke Branch of the NAACP.
  • Attend Church Women United.
  • Attend school events to bridge boundaries and show support for youth.
  • Attend events at and support the Harrison Museum.

Watch for an announcement about an upcoming group reading of How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.